Friday, August 10, 2018

Right Brain/Left Brain, Right?

There is truth to the idea that some brain functions reside more on one side of the brain than the other ... But for ... traits such as creativity or a tendency toward the rational rather than the intuitive, there has been little or no evidence supporting a residence in one area of the brain.... ("Right Brain/Left Brain, Right?" Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Harvard Health Publishing, August 25, 2017)
Still, it's a useful distinction that our brains operate in two fundamentally different ways, even if neuro-scientific evidence suggests they're not strictly right-brain or left-brain in origin:
  • One grouping (familiarly described as "right-brain" functioning): visual (images, patterns), intuition, processing ideas simultaneously, retaining information with a "mind photo," making lateral/oblique mental connections, seeing the whole picture first/then the details.
  • The other grouping ("left-brain" functioning): verbal (words, symbols, numbers), logical analysis, step-by-step processing, retaining information in the form of words, deducing logically from information, organizing the whole from the details.
Drawn in part from my Out of the Box Self-Coaching Workbook, this post explores how the right/left distinction can help you break through an automatic behavioral pattern when nothing you've tried before has worked.

Because of the way our patterns are wired in, your left-brain processes include the defense mechanisms that were built in to the logic and reason of your unconscious and conscious belief system as it was developed. But this logic is not, of course, an absolute truth; it's what you came to think of as "how things are," the result of the same pattern-making that created your view of the world in the first place.

As with elephants held in place when babies by a chain and a stake, we stay held in place as adults by chains we now have the power to break. Our chains as adults are the mental mechanism of explaining, analyzing, and interpreting why we behave the way we do. You know from experience how rarely it works to say, "Oh! OK, well, I'll just quit doing that."

It's nothing new to say if we want deep change in our lives, we have find a way through our psychological defenses. Everyone's heard the phrase What you resist, persists. I suggest here that our defenses are part of the same logical structure that created our worldview, and significant change can occur when we bypass the analytical mind and its defense mechanisms.

When your logical, analytical efforts to change old patterns don't work, that's an invitation to involve your more holistic, creative, spontaneous, nonverbal self.

Right-brain tactics--practices that use analogies and symbols to create new meaning--can help you integrate information in a new way, not dependent on former patterns. These tactics--which might involve stories, humor, dreams, art or poetry, dance/other physical movement, or sensory exploration--act as metaphor. The word metaphor comes from the Greek pherein (to carry) and meta (beyond or over). So, with tactics that act as metaphor, your mind is carried into freer territory that doesn't engage old, automatic patterns.

Metaphors have the power to change the way you see the world, and they're part of our everyday life and language. One of the most familiar examples is whether you see the glass as half-empty or half-full.

Check off any of these metaphors you hear yourself uttering and add some of your own. Then play with alternative images that could be a more open invitation to change:
___ I'm a bundle of nerves.
___ I'm up to my eyeballs.
___ When I'm in a social situation, I can't seem to break the ice.

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